Silly Season: Pravin Char at Thomson Reuters

 

July and August are usually a ‘silly season’ for media as most senior editors are on holiday. During this year’s silly season, we have called out DW, AP and now it is the turn of Reuters. An irresponsible piece that has only an editor’s name on CNBC, appears to be a thinly veiled propaganda piece that again links together disparate events to stir up hatred against the Muslim community in the United Kingdom.

Thankfully, very few news outlets picked up the disjointed story about the legal demolition of minarets on a Ahmadiyya Qadiani place of worship in Pakistan and text messages that an Ahmadi taxi driver got from his rather silly employer.

Here is the original piece by Myra MacDonald: http://in.reuters.com/article/2012/07/24/britain-pakistan-religion-ahmadis-idINDEE86N06Q20120724

And the one in CNBC: http://www.cnbc.com/id/48297740, which appeared without author accreditation but just had the editor’s name in it.

International Conspiracy Text Messages

 

Perhaps the text messages foreshadowed what was about to happen in Pakistan.

 

Does ‘foreshadow’ mean an international conspiracy, or a foreboding? The BBC World Service also approached me about these text messages and I only asked them ‘has the person gone to law enforcement in the U.K.?’ at which the producer decided to postpone the programme.

 

. . . they have seen the echoes of the same persecution here [UK]. . . . ‘Qadiani’ is an insult . . .

 

This is dangerous, really dangerous. The author, or editor, has not provided anything to back up this statement. While the Qadiani Ahmadiyya may be discriminated against in Pakistan, they are a thriving, “hard-working, close-knit, often well-off and in the past, politically influential” (author’s own words in the article) community in Pakistan. Regardless of their status in Pakistan or the laws that target them, this statement is very irresponsible. The word ‘Qadiani’ is not an insult – it is used to distinguish the two branches of the Ahmadiyya — and the ‘Lahori’ group gets upset if they are lumped together with the Qadiani Ahmadiyya media propaganda.

 

Takfirism or Laws, make up your mind

 

Perhaps the only valid statement in the article, but hopelessly out of context :

The term kafir, or infidel, has been most powerfully associated with the takfiri tradition of al Qaeda in deciding who should be accepted as Muslims, . . .

 

Even we have pointed out the evils of Takfeerism. Pakistan’s parliament did not declare Ahmadis ‘kafir’, but declared them non-Muslims for purposes of the constitution. After mentioning the laws the author, or rather the editor, tries to link this to the terrorist organisation Al-Qaeda.

 

Qadianis Ahmadiyyas (and not the Lahori Ahmadiyya!) consider all Muslims ‘kafir’ and refuse to pray with them, even when at Hajj. The author/editor points out that they used to pray ‘separately’ in the mosque, but we can give him the benefit of the doubt that he did not know this fact. There is no mosque in the world where ‘separate’ prayers are held – they used to be held because of the ‘takfiri’ Ahmadis.

 

Twisting Beyond Journalism

As if this was not enough, Mr. Char continues:

Ahmadis have become particularly vulnerable since 1984. In May 2010, at least 86 people were killed in militant attacks on two Ahmadi mosques in Punjab’s capital Lahore.

 

Here the author/editor does not use the word ‘Taliban’ as it would have brought this under the general terrorism category. This attack was one of the many terrorist attacks that the Taliban have conducted against religious institutions in Pakistan. The insinuation that a law in 1984 led to the terrorist attack in 2010 is beyond comprehension.

 

And the apex of journalistic fantasy, the twisted gem of the article:

In Britain, which the spiritual leader of the sect has made his home, there have been, as yet, no deaths.

 

OK, has there been a physical or verbal assault? Hate literature? Apunch, a slap, or anything? There are surely laws in the United Kingdom and it is a law-abiding country? Reuters should apologise for such fear-mongering.

 

Yet the threat is there in the text messages. It is there in the boycott of a butcher because people are told his meat is not halal even though it comes from the same slaughterhouse as that sold by non-Ahmadi butchers. It is there in leaflets distributed quietly in London declaring that Ahmadis are “wajib ul qatl” – worthy of death.

 

What is there in the text messages – ‘you are sacked because you are Qadiani?’ That’s it? One bigoted taxi company owner – or maybe even that is not true – as we are not aware of any police complaint so far. We specifically asked BBC if there had been one. There has never been one.

 

And there were no leaflets. We were front and centre during the silly season of 2010 and here is what actually happened: No leaflets, no case, nothing. And then, again in 2011.

 

 

Khatme Nubuwwat

Here is the real purpose of the article: malign a UK-based organisation. When the Qadiani Ahmadiyya vowed a 10-year campaign to idistribute millions of proselytizing leaflets to ‘every home’ in U.K., this organisation provided information about the Qadiani ‘cult’ to bewildered Muslims. That is their only sin, for which they are dragged in the media every silly season.

 

Its activities are often under the radar in Britain, where laws against inciting religious hatred can be difficult to enforce without clear proof of intent.

 

Were it possible without intent, the author/editor of this article would be prosecuted! This is a paraphrasing of Lord Avebury’s comments when the CPS refused to file charges in 2010 based on another set of concocted ‘leaflet’ stories that made the media rounds.  The author/editor continues:

 

Thus the Khatme Nubuwwat has been able to quietly hand out leaflets declaring Ahmadis worthy of death on the grounds that they insult the Prophet Mohammed by appearing to question whether he was, as Muslims believe, the last prophet. Ahmadis dispute this interpretation.

 

These are carefully argued seven-page texts stamped with addresses of the Khatme Nubuwwat in London and Lahore which mix social commentary with theology to declare that Ahmadis – people “who have established their colony near London” – deserve capital punishment under Islamic law.

 

Has the author/editor seen such texts? Why then the reluctance to take them to the authorities, as the publishers are clearly identified?

 

Even the more liberal English-language media is afraid to describe them as Muslims or their place of worship as a “masjid” or mosque for fear of retribution.

 

Another contradiction with the article itself. It is against the law of Pakistan, not ‘retribution’. While the enforcement of such laws remains problematic, it does not help anyone to characterise it in such terms.

 

Conclusion

The Ahmadiyya are discriminated against in Pakistan, but they are not persecuted by any common definition. Were the Qadiani organisation to not resort to gross exaggeration, they may even have a sympathetic case.

Muslims have become such whipping boys that editors of news agencies rarely bother to check facts before publishing such articles, making a mockery of news.

 

 

 

 

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